Posts Tagged ‘love’


Small thoughts

April 16, 2013

It’s not that there aren’t any words, just that there don’t seem to be any that are good enough. All of my words are wrong, but I keep writing anyway.

My heart goes out to the people and communities affected by the explosions in Boston. This didn’t set my heart racing and sinking the same way that the Newtown shootings did – which doesn’t mean I am even thinking about degrees of tragedy – just that it didn’t hit the same triggers for me that were hit in December.

But it’s still so very sad, and infuriating, and disheartening. My gut aches with outrage – sometimes it seems as if the cruelty and senselessness and misogyny and hatred floats up to the surface all at once. Except it doesn’t, there’s always more, when you look – in the past, going on under the surface.

And I feel like I should be doing more – putting on my armor and joining up with a band of Amazons and fighting evil, or giving up all my worldly possessions and dedicating my life to the study of non-violence. But I have work to do and a child to raise, dinner to cook, stories to read, dishes to wash, and a bedtime to enforce, and the hours of the day slip through my fingers like water. There are very few crime-fighting super heroes who are secretly moms, and this is why.

It’s not enough, I know it’s not enough, but right now I am just trying to make love a part of everything I do, to send positive thoughts into the world while stirring the pasta and coaxing Dot into brushing her teeth, while helping a researcher figure out how to use an e-book and typing up meeting minutes. I try to be the change in small ways, as much as I can. Today my life seems small and domestic and almost unbearably precious.

Love to you, Boston. So much love.



July 31, 2012

I am a witness in a friend’s lawsuit. I won’t talk about the details, but she was badly injured and her attorney is trying to piece together the story of who she was before and after her injuries.

I don’t know if you’ve ever spent over an hour on the phone with someone grilling you about your best friend, but it’s exhausting. And I don’t think I can tell him quite the story he wants – or maybe even the story she wants. He, of course, would love it if I could tell him that when I first met her I knew she was the most brilliant mind I’d ever encountered, but while she was smart (we met in graduate school – we were all smart), her intelligence isn’t what made her stand out, at least in my mind. It was her confidence and her ability to bring people together and to create good conversations because she could make just about anyone feel interesting. Those things have both been – not lost, but greatly diminished, too. And whether or not she will be able to reclaim those parts of herself – that’s uncertain, and that’s a great sorrow.

And I know he is trying to help her, and apparently he is good at his job, but it’s fascinating to me, how problematic complicated truths are. And also fascinating is how important truth – in all its complexity – is to me. It is going to be hard for me to pretend things are simple when they’re not. Even for her.

And it occurs to me that this kind of witnessing, the coached, coaxed, carefully orchestrated kind, is a pale shadow of the real witnessing that we all want for our lives. N and I dropped Dot off at daycare this morning, and she went skipping away with her pigtails and her sunny little-girl face that just months ago was a baby face, and my heart swells with how much I love her and how lucky I am. With how I love the freckle on her temple that marks a perfect spot for kissing and how I love her sleepy hugs and her little stories and the way that she holds my face between her soft hands and then kisses my chin. With how I love even her temper and the way that she works so hard to put off bedtime every night. With how I love the smell of her and how lucky I am to be able to bury my nose in the back of her neck while she is sleeping and inhale baby soap and shampoo and faded sunscreen and that particular smell of her.

And then I hold N’s hand and think of how lucky I am to be able to watch him grow as a teacher and partner and father. How we’ve held each other up and have watched each other be strong and have watched each other fall apart. How I still love his collarbone and the strong, clean lines of his wrists, but how I now love his unfailing generosity and how hard he tries and how he can make me laugh even when things are grimmer than grim even more.

And then I think of my friend and how we cooked Thanksgiving dinner together (so many pies!), of how I watched her struggle through exams and coursework, through living apart from her husband for a semester so she could finish her coursework. I think of watching her with her dog and how well she’d trained him, of all of our talks about mystery plays and early modern drama and teaching and books. I think of her Halloween parties and how much she loved filling her home with people who enjoyed talking with each other. And I think of how hard she worked to make a home for herself and her husband, and of how they wanted children and of how hard it was to find out that they couldn’t have them. And I remember watching her struggle as her marriage fell apart, and then almost came back together, and then fell apart again. I watched her fighting to become someone she never thought she’d have to be, and I saw how writing helped with that – how happy and alive she felt when working at writing. I think of how witnessing her life has made me love her and how I’m lucky to know her.

I think of my Teddy, his kicks and wriggles – so very alive while he was inside me. I remember his beautiful stubborn face, obscured by tubes. I think of his hands and feet, more purple than they should have been as he lay on that cold blanket that the NICU used to try to prevent brain damage. I remember the weight of him – so very precious and warm, but still – in my arms. I wonder what he know of me and his father through the morphine and what I can only imagine as exhaustion. I remember his small last breaths and the feeling of the life leaving his body – such a momentous thing but so lightly done. Like a butterfly lifting itself off of a flower.

I think of how humbled I am to read the words of other babylost parents, to hear so many stories. So many important stories, all packed full of love and longing and howling and thorns and grace and revelation and despair and hope. I think of how grateful I am when someone reads my words and says, I hear you. I am listening.

Listening to the stories that are not simple. That may not play well in front of a jury. That contain contradictions and surprising strengths and weaknesses.

It takes a lot of love to be a good witness.

Thank you for being one of mine.


Letter to Teddy, Spring 2012

June 11, 2012

Dear Teddy,

I feel like I’m neglecting you lately. It’s not that I don’t think of you often, I do. I think of you every day. I see you in the new climbing vines of the clematis I planted in your memory last year. When I chase after Dot in the park I wonder if you would have been a spitfire like her, all passion and motion, or if you would have been (as I suspect) a calmer and more grounded child. I whisper your name under my breath when I walk across campus. I wish you could whisper back.

But there’s not much I can do for you, is there? Not much besides remember. It’s hard to accept that. I want to build you a house, a place to keep you. I want to cook your favorite foods and wash your clothes and tell you bedtime stories and take you swimming. I want to see you playing catch with your father in the front yard. I want to help you learn to ride a bike.

I want to sneak in while you are asleep and bury my nose in your hair and inhale the smell of you.

I want to tell you stories about when you were, as your sister says, “teeny, tiny.”

I want to be “that mom” who embarrasses you by kissing you when I drop you off at school.

Oh, this longing to put love into action. It’s bittersweet and, for some reason especially on fine days like today, when the air is filled with sunlight and little breezes, when everything is green, and bright, and alive, it’s overwhelming.

And you’re beyond it. Perhaps not beyond the green and light and little breezes, but beyond my mediocre cooking, certainly. Beyond hair-ruffling and hugs. Beyond all of those games we wanted to play with you and those conversations we wanted to have.

I think that this, even all these years later, is the hardest thing to accept. Even when I convince myself that where you are is beauty and freedom and love, I get bogged down by how much I want to hold you. I probably always will.

See, you are dead, and I’m still “that mom.” I almost hope it embarrasses you, just a little.

But here, I will send you these thoughts, full of longing and missing and wishing and loving. And I’ll send you that story of you and your sister that I piece together in the back of my head, and I’ll send you this feeling I have that you’re part of the sunlit spring beauty of this day.

I hope it finds you, even though I still long for dirty laundry.


Go, Cubs

September 19, 2011

N and I probably would have fallen in love without baseball, but it so happened that we began dating in the magic summer of 2003. The Cubs were brilliant that year. Prior, Wood and Zambrano were on the mound and our big bats were swinging away. Northsiders held their breath as the loveable losers claimed the wildcard spot in the playoffs and proceeded to work their way toward the world series. In Dusty we trusty, we chanted, hoping that the end to decades of dashed hopes and big losses were in sight. A dear friend and her mother watched each playoff game together, holding onto a little plush goat.

And N taught me about baseball. One of the reasons I knew he was the one for me was the way he answered my questions without laughing at me, the way he’d say, “You know, that’s a good question,” and then proceed to explain to me one of the finer points of the game. After years of being laughed at when I asked sports questions at home (admittedly they were often naive questions, but still), it was wonderful and welcoming to feel so comfortable asking about they mysteries of baseball, to not feel like an outsider when faced with a sport. I got to know the players, to see the beauty in a group of very different individuals coming together as a team. I learned about pitching and curve balls and sliders and forced outs and the kind of crazy hope that is known to all baseball fans, but that is particularly strong in Cubs fans. I learned that some beautiful, amazing, and incredibly unlikely things can happen at key moments in baseball, and came to appreciate the beauty of statistics. And I accomplished a lot of this in the midst of afterglow, which I highly recommend, if you can arrange it.

Also, the fact that N loves both Jane Austen and baseball? I still find that sexy as hell.

When I was living in Champaign, I’d drive up to see him in Chicago on weekends, and we’d order a pizza and eat it on his bed, cheering on our Cubbies. We listened to the games on the radio when driving back & forth to see each other, and one magical afternoon as we were driving to Chicago together, we stopped at a chain burger place, asked if the game was on their television, and it was. It was a magical summer, a magical autumn, a magical year. And the Cubs were a part of all that.

They didn’t win the World Series, of course. Baseball can be brutal and ruthless and random. Much like, well, life. Any pitcher can have a bad day, or even a slightly off day, while the batters he faces down all seem to be having their best day ever. A fan can reach over the side of the bleachers and grab a ball that is still in play. A rival team can suddenly cohere in ways that are beautiful to see unless you are on the side of the other team. The magic of a season can fade.

They say that Cubs fans deal better with disappointment than non-Cubs fans, that the annual experiences of dealing with disappointment somehow prepare you to face other disappointments in your life. If that’s the case, I wonder if being a Cubs fan has helped my grieving process along in ways I don’t even know. I know it’s been a part of the grief – the piece of Teddy’s clothing I cried over the most was his infant-sized Cubs hat. That hat signifies so much – the ache of a lost son who would have been another Cubs fan, who would have played catch with his father and seen baseball parks, and played little league, and had favorite players. Who knows, maybe he would have been able to see them win someday.

His sister has just stopped wearing that hat. Her head is finally too big for it and she’s moved on to a new favorite – a denim newsboy cap with a flowered band above the brim. It looks adorable on her, but I miss her wearing her brother’s hat. It hurts to think of packing that hat away again. Not as much as it hurt the first time I packed it away. Still.

Oh, little hat. I wish you had twice the amount of wear and tear on you. I wish Teddy had been able to wear you. I wish he’d been the one to teach Dot to say, “Go, Cubbies!”

But here’s another gift baseball gave to me: just because the magic of a season is over doesn’t mean that there isn’t still magic. Disappointment, even grief – they aren’t the whole story though sometimes it feels like they are. I would have loved you forever if you’d been born to a long life of wearing baseball hats, Teddy, even if you decided to become a Yankees fan as an act of teenage rebellion (though I might not have laundered your Yankees cap very carefully), but I will love you forever now, too.

And, who knows, maybe where you are the Cubs always win. Save us a seat, my love.


Happy Birthday to the Bathtub Oracle

February 1, 2011
Bathtub oracle, 1.

Bathtub oracle, 1.

At some point in the last two months, Dot began picking up random objects – toys, pieces of paper, shoes (hers and ours) and carrying them into the bathroom. She’ll dangle her chosen object over the edge of the bathtub and sometimes talk to herself a little about it. After some consideration, she may drop whatever she’s holding into the bathtub, or she may take it out, look at it again, and drop it on the bath mat instead.

Bathtub oracle, 2.

Bathtub oracle, 2.

This all means something, even though I don’t know what.

At the end of most days, there are new collections of things in the bathtub. I’m not sure if she’s trying desperately to communicate with us or if this is some baby version of casting runes or speaking the wisdom of the gods (possibly the bathtub god?).

It’s funny and odd and mysterious. I knew, when she was born a year ago that I loved her with big, deep love, but I didn’t know she would be so funny and odd and mysterious.

I didn’t know how scarily smart and mobile she would be, or that she’d enjoy hauling around large objects (the laundry basket, the bath mat), or that I’d love her little toothy smile as much if not more than I loved her little gummy smile. I didn’t know that her baby kisses (open-mouthed and involving usually quite a bit of drool) would make me melt in quite this way.

Bathtub oracle, 4.

Bathtub oracle, 4.

It’s bitter-sweet because I can’t help but wonder what her brother would have been like. If he’d have been this active or if he’d have been more laid-back. If he’d have patted us on the back while giving us hugs, too. I love Teddy, but I’ll never be able to love him this way because I’ll never know him this way, never see him becoming more and more himself with every day and week and month.

But this is your day, Dot. Your day to be amazing, to be a whole year old. I’m so happy you’re here and that I get to know how smart and funny and sweet and mysterious and strong you are.

My froglet, my bumblebee, my little bathtub oracle. There’s a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting waiting for you at home, but I feel like there should be fireworks, too.


Little gifts

January 31, 2011


This is a photograph of Watson, our car, in the springtime, and this is how I park it. When N parks it, however, he backs in. He backs in so that I don’t have to back out onto the street.

There are times when I find myself scrambling to get dinner ready while holding the baby in one arm and trying to keep her happy by popping peas in her mouth as I stir and slice and set the table, and it’s craziness, craziness all around, and I think somewhat jealously of N sitting at his office computer and wonder when he started to take me so for granted.

And this is usually the time he appears, amuses the baby, pours me a beverage, and manages to right the world.

He slips dark chocolate into my pocket, leaves cookies on my desk, calls me Beautiful.

We do take each other for granted, more often than we should. It’s one of the hard things about being together for years, and also one of the ramifications of parenthood. It’s hard to snatch moments just for us, even though we want them. Even though we know we’re worth it.

And perhaps because our time together is so often full of Dot, full of trying to get things done, full of hurry and scurry, that these little things – backing the car in for me, dancing with Dot so that I can have a few moments to read a chapter in a novel, slipping a chocolate into my jacket pocket – mean so very much.

Because sometimes I wonder when he started taking me for granted, and sometimes I wonder what he sees in me, that he never stopped courting me.


Birthday present

July 22, 2010

Today is my birthday, my thirty-sixth, which means I am three dozen years old, which feels as though it should be momentous, but mostly, well, isn’t.  Too much else is going on.  When I was young, I would have been horrified at the thought of my birthday not being a big deal, but today I find it soothing.  I’ll finish up at work, N will give me a present and make dinner.  I’ll try to get Dot to sleep so that we can watch Enchanted April and maybe make out a little on the futon.  An embarrassment of riches.

Though perhaps I should mention that I count as good any birthday that doesn’t involve anything as horrible as me staring at a reality tv show in a futile attempt to combat the despair of being on bedrest due to CDH complications.   I still think of that woman I was then and I wish I could fold her in my arms and tell her, You’re right; it’s bad, really bad, and it’ll get better and then much worse.  But even though it’ll be horrible, you’ll somehow get through it.  And you’ll never have to do this again.

Knock on wood, of course.

I used to think that the universe gave me presents.  Sunsets, birdsong, smiles in corridors, signs of hope, rain when I was sad.  Now, I’m suspicious of any such thoughts.  Sometimes I am thoroughly scornful of them.  Yet every once in a while I catch myself wondering.  Maybe the universe, or my fairy godmother, or some benign spirit is capable of gifts, but only small ones.  Maybe the life and death stuff has to be set at random for some reason I don’t/won’t/can’t comprehend.  In any case, I’ve received a small and sparkling birthday present.

I had no idea who Regina Spektor was until yesterday, when N called my attention to a song a friend had put on a mixed CD for us.  The friend is also the chair of his department, and also (and perhaps not irrelevantly) the father of another baby boy who died too soon.  I listened to the song in the car, to it’s playful piano and almost-but-not-quite-cheery tune and I smiled.  And then I focused on the lyrics.  I listened to it again.

And she was singing to me, singing for me as I try to cope with memories and travel planning and missing Teddy like crazy and being relieved that I don’t have to lie on the futon and stew in despair again.  This song felt like it was made precisely for this summer with August staring me down and asking me how much I can take.  How can I not love a song with lyrics like this?

This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again

And I wanted to share it, in case you needed something like this today, too.

On the Radio